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561 pages, Paperback
First published September 26, 1988
Mahound, any new idea is asked two questions. When it's weak: will it compromise? We know the answer to that one. And now, Mahound, on your return to Jahilia, time for the second question: How do you behave when you win? When your enemies are at your mercy and your power has become absolute: what then?The main reason why I think this book deserves to be read is because while Rushdie does fall into authorial/political traps in regards to women, he does so while deconstructing the very power structures that propagate those traps. It's not a matter of "I did my best and no one should criticize me" feel-good stagnancy, nor a philosophical degeneration into nonentity that likes to pretend privilege is not a thing, but a real look at the compromises we live by in the societal boundaries of good and evil. This angry and messy view of things is particular important when considering the book, its history, and the particular reader I am, an atheist woman who grew to adulthood in the wake of 9/11. I have my own issues due to my identity, but I'll never be thought a terrorist.
Emboldened by the lights and the patient, silent lens, he goes further. These kids don't know how lucky they are, he suggests. They should consult their kith and kin. Africa, Asia, the Caribbean: now those are places with real problems. Those are places where people might have grievances worth respecting. Things aren't so bad here, not by a long chalk; no slaughters here, no torture, no military coups. People should value what they've got before they lose it. Ours always was a peaceful land, he says. Our industrious island race.I know people died for the sake of this book, I know people died for the sake of my country's obsessions with security and military industrial complex as a direct result of Islamophobia, and I know how easy it would be to use one to excuse the other. It's the same parsed feeling when Rushdie writes about current events in Ferguson twenty-six years before in fiction form, and then goes on to comment how the martyr of his particular story had a history of abusing women that does not receive coverage for the sake of solidarity. What's important here is how little confidence there is in regards to the "right" answer to all this, how Rushdie handles the choice between in such a way that the good and the bad of each are readily apparent and always in metamorphosis. Much like Murakami, I found myself questioning my own beliefs not because of how characters I had identified with had suffered, but due to the genuine interest the author had in questioning the lines of good and evil and what that all meant for our effort to live. Both of them have issues with writing female characters, but the "worth reading" quality is high enough to merit a pass.
Allie had a way of switching from the concrete to the abstract, a trope so casually achieved as to leave the listener half-wondering if she knew the difference between the two; or, very often, unsure as to whether, finally, such a difference could be said to exist.If I can do it, so can you. Personal offence does not impress me when lives are on the line, and that goes for any and all lives.